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Crag

1974
Sheet metal, wire and paint
199.4 x 243.8 x 96.5 cm /
78 1/2 x 96 x 38 in
Signed and dated ‘CA 74’ on base and ‘CA 75’ on uppermost red element

© 2020 Calder Foundation, New York / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / ProLitteris, Zurich

Crag

Alexander Calder revolutionised sculpture in the twentieth century with his insatiable and inexhaustible desire to create. Celebrated for his radical mobiles of lively suspended constellations, he ingeniously freed the state of sculpture from its static plinth.

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Shapes with Butterfly

1963
Oil on linen
80.6 x 115.9 cm / 31 3/4 x 45 5/8 in
Inscription ‘Calder’ lower right recto, signed later

© 2020 Calder Foundation, New York / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / ProLitteris, Zurich

Shapes with Butterfly

Renowned chiefly for his lyrical mobiles and monumental stabiles, Alexander Calder started his career as a painter. He was first inspired to paint in 1922, when working as a timekeeper in a Washington State logging camp, he was struck by the beauty of his mountainous surroundings and wrote home for painting materials. These first figurative paintings gesture towards the artist’s later fascination with movement and space. Often overlooked as a painter, Calder returned time and again to two dimensions throughout his career. ‘Shapes with Butterfly’, 1963, encapsulates Calder’s enduring enthusiasm for animals and the natural world. ‘ANIMALS-ACTION’, he wrote in his 1926 book, ‘Animal Sketching’, ‘These two words go hand in hand in art…there is always a feeling of perpetual motion about animals and to draw them successfully this must be borne in mind’. [1] Here, a butterfly hovers in the lower left hand corner of the painting. While Calder’s painting is largely non-representational, in ‘Shapes with Butterfly’ a yellow orb and unfurling spirals suggest an outdoor setting: the burning sun and gentle breeze of a summer’s day.

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Celebrating Basel Basel

In the central courtyard of Kunstmuseum Basel, Calder’s Spider stands almost 10 foot tall. Installed in 1960, it was donated to the museum by Dr. H. C. Maja Sacher-Stehlin on the occasion of the 500th anniversary of Basel University.

Alexander Calder, Spider, 1959, Kunstmuseum Basel © 2020 Calder Foundation, New York / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York. Photo: @hatomicha.

‘You have to walk around a stabile or through it—a mobile dances in front of you. You can walk through my stabile at the Basel museum. It’s a bunch of triangles leaning against each other with several large arches flying from the mass of triangles.’—Alexander Calder

In the stairwell of the museum, ‘Five Branches with 1000 Leaves, c. 1946’ hangs from the ceiling. It was featured in the major group exhibition ‘Sculpture on the Move 1946—2016’, alongside work by Max Bill, Louise Bourgeois, Constantin Brancusi, and Eduardo Chillida, among others.

Alexander Calder, Five Branches with 1000 Leaves, ca. 1946 © 2020 Calder Foundation, New York / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York